Friday, 3 February 2012

Central Drive assault: Man sought

Morecambe Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward after a man was assaulted as he walked home from a night out last month.

The offence took place around 2.15am on Sunday 29th January when the 38-yearold victim from St Helens was walking along Central Drive.

He was approached by two men very close to the bottom of Billy Hill when he has been assaulted and knocked to the floor.

He suffered facial injuries including a black eye and swelling to his cheek and was treated at Royal Lancaster Infirmary.

PC Ben Hanley said: “This victim was subjected to a completely unprovoked assault which took place near to a residential area, so I would urge anybody that has seen or heard something in the early hours of Sunday 29th January to come forward.”

Anyone with any information should call Lancashire Police on 101.

• People with information can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

Female student "groped" in Galgate attack

Lancaster Police are appealing for information after a 20-year-old student was groped whilst she was out walking in Galgate on 29th January 2012.

The incident took place around 3.30pm on Chapel Lane when a teenage boy, who was in the company of four other youths, ran after the victim and engaged her in conversation before groping her breast and slapping her bottom.

The group, three boys and two girls, were hanging around the steps to the cemetery at the time of the offence.

The boy responsible is described as white, aged between 13 and 15, slim build with short light brown hair and a grey and white matching tracksuit.

PC Nikki Kay said: “I would appeal to anybody that saw the group of youngsters in the area at the time of incident, or with any information to come forward,

“The victim was not hurt but obviously felt violated and this type of behaviour is not acceptable.”

Anyone with any information should call Lancashire Police on 101.

• People with information can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

Black & Asian NHS Organ Donor Register Appeal

Shobna Gulati
North West celebrities Shobna Gulati, of Coronation Street, Tony Morris, of ITV Granada Reports, and Ricky Whittle, of Hollyoaks, are backing NHS Blood and Transplant’s new campaign to urge more Black and Asian people to join the NHS Organ Donor Register.

Jane Monks, Specialist Nurse for Organ Donation at NHSBT, said:  “Transplants can be carried out between people from different ethnic groups, but an organ is more likely to be a close match, and as a result a transplant is much more likely to be successful, if the donor and recipient have the same ethnic origin. Becoming an organ donor means that you could help save or enhance up to nine lives.

“It is vital that more Black and Asian people join the NHS Organ Donor Register. The message is quite simple – more Black and Asian patients will have the opportunity to receive a life-saving transplant if more people from those communities join the Register."

 Currently, 18 per cent of patients awaiting organ transplants in the North West are of  Black and / or Asian ethnic origin. This demographic accounts for almost two per cent of people who have signed the ODR.

Ricky Whittle
Offering his support for the campaign actor Ricky Whittle of Hollyoaks/Strictly Come Dancing fame said: "Tragically, numerous people die whilst waiting for an organ transplant due to the shortage of donors in the UK.

"In particular, Black, ethnic and rare blood groups can be forced to wait an average of three years or more to receive a kidney transplant among other life saving operations. I urge you to raise awareness of this shortage. Think about organ donation, think about saving lives. Join the NHS Organ Donor Register today.

"Encourage family members to honour and respect that decision to ensure the gift of life is passed on. Be the reason loved ones across the UK are given a second chance, wouldn't you want that for yours? You have the power to save lives, make a difference."

Actress Shobna Gulati who plays Sunita in Coronation Street added: “I used to think that organ donation was a difficult decision to make but then I realised you can leave a tangible legacy, and it's actually really straightforward. For our communities, putting your name on that Register could make a real difference. Just do it and encourage your family and friends too - we can all help save lives."

Tony Morris, ITV Granada Reports presenter, said: “I've been on the NHS Organ Donor Register for a number of years and I strongly believe it's something everyone should do. The shortage of donors in Black and minority ethnic communities is a problem that won't go away until people come forward.

"A few months ago we covered a story on Granada Reports about a little boy who's dying wish was to donate - and his totally selfless gesture meant another five people could live. If I can help just one person in that way I'll be honoured. Please sign up because you could make a real difference."

Between April 2010 - March 2011, more than 7,300 organ and cornea transplants (3,740 organ and 3,564 cornea transplants) were carried out in the UK, thanks to the generosity of deceased and living donors – the highest on record.

• Everyone can join the NHS Organ Donor Register - just visit or, or call the NHS Donor Line on 0300 123 00 00 or text ORGAN to 64118.

Snaps & Sugar, Snails & Spice: Children's Film Festival

Lancaster Children's Film Festival returns from Wednesday 15 - Saturday 18th February. Its aims are simple: bringing great films to the city to entertain, and hosting workshops and classes to engage and educate children about film making and the artistic disciplines behind it.

Aimed at young people of all ages, the Festival features a packed programme of films, workshops and special events held at venues all across Lancaster. The films shown will range from shorts to live action and animated features, including some classic family favourites and international screenings.

The Thursday sees two children's workshops advertised, both running from 10am:

Pirate Day
Pirate Day, at the Maritime Museum, features pirate tales and a workshop on animation techniques that will produce a short film.

Princess Day, at Lancaster Library, features the singing of princess songs and making a princess puppet to take home.

Princess Day
A cynic might think that the two workshops might be promoting some kind of gender divide along the old school lines, where the boys make the movies and the girls look pretty and sing in them. But no way, a spokesperson for the Film Festival told us:

"We are committed to stirring the imagination and creativity of all children, young and old, girls and boys. You will have seen that our selected themes, inspired by the films we are showing, range from monsters (Go Wild Toddler Morning) to detectives, with pirates and princesses in between. We encourage anyone interested to come along. The Pirates and Princess Days are not aimed solely at boys and girls respectively. Anyone can be a princess, or a pirate, or a detective or a monster, it only takes a sprinkling of imagination.

"The workshops build on the themes of the films we are showing, and explore the use of puppetry and animation in film-making. Puppets have been used in a wide variety of films, famously in Jim Henson’s Sesame Street, The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth; the British Thunderbirds Are Go and more recently in a Scandinavian-British film Strings. These films have portrayed humans, muppets, goblins and mystical creatures. Time permitting, workshop participants will be making short films in both the puppet and animation workshops."

So if your little boy or girl fancies trying their hand at being an effects puppeteer or an animator, (or a cut-throat or singing princess) a sprinkling of imagination is how they roll.

There's more good stuff on at the Film Festival; lots of great children's films, of course, a Detectives Day, an Imagination Day, a big Movie Music Morning on Saturday for young musicians and a big Pyjama Party on Saturday for the Closing Gala.

You can find the full programme of  Lancaster Children's Film Festival events day by day in the Virtual Lancaster events calendar and at
You can purchase tickets online, and at events.
Tickets to the Closing Gala will also be on sale at the Dukes Box Office tel: 01524 598500.

Day passes and festival passes available.

- Child Festival Pass (Opening Gala film, 3 day passes and Closing Gala, a total of 6 workshops and 5 films) £40

- Adult Festival Pass ( 5 films including the Opening and Closing Galas) £17.50

There are also tickets to individual events and Child Day Passes for each day (which include entry to 2 workshops and then you can attend the afternoon film for free!) Please see the website for full details.

Alongside the festival, the Dukes will be running 'How to Make a Monster Movie in Five Days' - a crash course in filmmaking for 11 to 14-year-olds which takes place from 13-17th February.

• Visit for more and see previous story

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Lancaster Pride 2012?

Will there be any Lancaster Pride Celebrations this year? Lancaster University student Ellie Best is keen to find out if anyone is interested in getting together to plan a community celebration of local Lesbian / Gay / Bisexual / Transgendered  (LGBT) groups and individuals in Lancaster this year.

Ellie would like to get in touch with any local groups, organisations or individuals who might be interested or who may already have plans afoot.

If you are interested in getting involved in a Lancaster Pride 2012 event or maybe just in finding out more, please email,

Police hunt Lancaster jewellery thief

Police are appealing for help in tracing a man they want to speak to after a theft from Wave Contemporary Jewellery store on Marketgate, Lancaster.

At around 2.40pm on Friday 27th January 2012, a man entered the store and asked to view a watch and three rings. He then told the shop assistant that he wanted the items and specified to them on how he wanted the items to be wrapped.

Initially, he wanted to pay some of the bill with cash and handed over an amount of money before asking for it back and telling the shop assistant that he would pay by bank card instead.

The offender then told staff that he wanted to get his wife and that he would be back in 30 minutes.

He left the store taking the three rings with him but did not return later with his wife.

“I would appeal to anyone who recognises the man in the CCTV image to come forward and contact the police," PC Julia Whitehead from Lancaster police said.

“Over £12,000 worth of goods have been stolen and the person responsible needs to be caught and brought to justice.”

• Anyone with information can call Lancaster Police on 101 or contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

Freeman's Wood: Can it be saved?

Shocked by the erection of a large metal fence around Freeman's Wood in Lancaster, campaigners trying to save the land for the public are urging human users of the wood to take action by backing the Council's Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) there.

As we reported last month, Lancastrians have reacted angrily to the news that Freeman's Wood near the Lune Industrial Estate - long open to the public and popular with walkers, bikers and bird watchers - has been fenced off by  landowners The Property Trust, a Bermuda-based company headed by a Hong Kong businessman, who have lodged an objection against the TPO.

Lancaster City Council has issued the following statement to Virtual-Lancaster:
"Lancaster City Council has received a formal objection in relation to Tree Preservation Order no 496 (2011), which affects trees to the west of Luneside Industrial Estate and the area known locally as Freeman's Wood.

"The city council will examine the objection in accordance with its procedures.  In the event that the objection is not withdrawn then the usual process involves the consideration of the Tree Preservation Order, and the nature of the objection to it, at a specially-convened Appeals Committee.  This would resolve whether the Tree Preservation Order can be confirmed without modification, or whether it can be confirmed with modification, or whether it should not be confirmed at all.  A date has yet to be set for the Appeals Committee."

Local councillor Jon Barry is one of several now organising a campagn to prevent any development, and has appealed for proof that former landowners, Willamson's, who used the land as a tip, gave the land to the people of the Marsh estate.

One option - although one tried in other areas with mixed results - is to give support to the Council's Tree Preservation Orders on the Freeman's Wood woodland, which were granted just after the fence went up.

This is vitally important if locals want to save the site as woodland as, otherwise, the owners can simply clear it and destroy all the habitat in one foul swoop.

If you know this area, campaigners are appealing to users to please write in and say that you support the TPO order:

"For example, individuals or groups may wish to express their support detailing how they use the area in general, what they 'feel' about the woodland and the value and enjoyment that they believe it brings to the locality.

"Wildlife value is obviously important, and should be mentioned if that is what is believed to be the case. However, TPOs are served with amenity value and the enjoyment of the public in mind.

"Visual appearance, greening, screening, character of an area, potential longevity, scarcity, or rarity are all factors that may apply in any given situation; wildlife value is 'an also ran' if you will, it cannot be a sole reason for serving a TPO, though it is a wider consideration."

• You should address your email or letter to Maxine Knagg, Tree Officer, Lancaster City Council. Send your email to and head it TPO 496 (2011)

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Let's Hear it for the Hare

A project to estimate the population of brown hares in the North West has been a huge success with more than 700 sightings. But it's been hard work for volunteers taking part in the survey who have racked up 400km – the same distance as a stroll from Bolton to... Aberdeen!

North West Brown Hare Project Officer Samuel Bolton said: “The first year of the project has been a great success. It’s fantastic that so many people have got involved; I just hope that we can find some more people to help out again this year. Every survey completed really does make a difference.”

The survey, which is the biggest of its kind to date, covered North Merseyside, South Lancashire and Greater Manchester. (Around Lancaster, not included in this survey, you can see hares on the River Lune, the Trough of Bowland and at Leighton Moss for example - and the Hare Conservation and Recording Project would like you to let them know whwere).

Funded by the SITA Trust and the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species, it has really grabbed people’s imaginations. Samuel said: “Each survey completed by the volunteers has been different in its own unique way. As well as hares, people have seen some great wildlife, including water voles, badgers, foxes and numerous bird species”.

Because of the decline in numbers, action plans for Brown Hare are incorporated into each of the three Local Biodiversity Action Plans (LBAPs) for Lancashire, Greater Manchester and North Merseyside - the plans which set conservation priorities in our area.

One of the greatest barriers to successful conservation of any species is a lack of knowledge on distribution and abundance and this is as true for Brown Hare as any other species. All three LBAPs recognise this lack for information and all have set targets and/or actions to increase our knowledge of their numbers and whereabouts.

The results of the North West Brown Hare Project show a large divide between Greater Manchester and the rest of the survey area. Of 51 1km2 transects surveyed in Greater Manchester only 10 hares were seen. This compares with 229 hares seen over 84 1km2 transects in North Merseyside and South Lancashire.

Sam said: “While there are still pockets of hares in Greater Manchester, numbers have declined. There are possible reasons for the brown hares decline, including changes in farming practices, building development, a rise in predator numbers, along with illegal poaching and coursing.

“A shift away from hay to silage production and increased stocking levels reduce the amount of cover available and increase the amount of disturbance of hares.”

The North West Brown Hare Project, which is running the survey, is now working with groups including the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside, to focus on areas where hare numbers can be improved. A new survey will be running between February and April and people are still needed to carry out surveys and send in their hare sightings.

• For more information about the projects findings, volunteering for surveying, recording sightings or up and coming survey training events, people should contact Samuel on 0161 3424409 or email or visit Or you can keep up to date on Facebook - 

• For anyone who wants to get involved in the survey there is a half- day course on Monday (6th February) from 1:45pm to 5pm. This will involve an hour long talk and then a walk and fieldwork for two hours. Meet at The George & Dragon Public House, Warrington Road, Glazebury, WA3 5LF. Other surveys will take place across the region until April.

Related Links

Wildlife Hotspots Blog

Hare Conservation and Recording Project 

Service for young sexual abuse victims opens following support from police

A new service for young people who have been the victim of sexual abuse is now available in the north of Lancashire, following support from police.

The Birchall Trust charity, which provides counselling for those who have been raped or sexually abused, is now able to offer the service after receiving £200,000 worth of funding from the Ministry of Justice.

The trust was successful in its bid for the cash after it received the backing of Lancashire Constabulary officers, who have worked closely with the charity over the past few years.

The charity will now be able to offer special dedicated sessions, which will include play and art therapy, for children and young people at their rooms in Lancaster.

“Victims of rape or sexual abuse are given the full support of our officers after a crime has been reported to us," says Detective Inspector Jo Dent, Lancaster CID. "This level of support continues if an offender is caught and the case then goes through the court process.

“The Birchall Trust is able to add an additional level of support, through their counselling and therapy sessions, to those who are referred to them. This has now been bolstered further by the funding which they have received and which will now be used to focus on young victims.“

Previously known as the South Cumbria Rape and Abuse Service, the charity's new name was chosen in March 2010 to honour its founder member, the late Christine Birchall who founded the service in 1991. It is also a name that service users feel more comfortable with.

During the first year of the service counselling was provided to five individuals. Since then, the Trust has received hundreds of referrals and have continued to expand to meet demand to support male and female adults, children and young people who are survivors of rape, sexual abuse and/or incest. The sexual abuse can be recent or historic.

"We are so pleased to be able to provide services in north Lancashire," said a spokesperson for the Birchall Trust. "Our specialist counselling service supports survivors of rape and sexual abuse, whether the abuse is recent or historic and whatever their age. By having a space for play and art therapy we can support children and young people in different ways that help them express their feelings.

“Often it is difficult to put the abuse they have suffered into words; play and art can help with communication, especially for young children - so being able to refurbish and now use this room in Lancaster is great. The support of the police, and Detective Inspector Jo Dent in particular has been invaluable, especially to secure the funds we needed. This is a crime that often leaves the victim feeling alone and that they have no voice - we hope they see they are not alone and to give them back their voice."

• The Birchall Trust can reached by telephoning 01229 820828 or email Calls are treated in confidence and with respect, the staff are there to help and support.

• More about the Birchall Trust at:

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Pão Pão: New Coffee Shop for King Street corner

Cafe chain Pão Pão will be opening its new Lancaster coffee shop on Thursday in the ground floor units of the new Travelodge development on the corner of King Street and Spring Gardens.

"The interior environment has been configured so as to provide a state of the art coffee culture establishment," say the owners, who clearly have an eye on attracting the attention of students living on Penny Street - not just now, but when the new student accommodation opens later this year at the top of that thoroughfare.

And just in case a configured environment doesn't cut it for you, according to their website they also offer free iPad use with your coffee.

This will be the third shop trading under the Pão Pão brand, with a fourth due to open in Manchester city centre in mid February 2012. A cafe in Ambleside is also set to open soon.

• More info at:

Monday, 30 January 2012

Hawk returned after Morecambe drugs raid

Police have returned a stolen Harris Hawk to its owner after finding the bird during a drugs raid in Morecambe.

Officers became aware that a stolen bird may have been brought into North Lancashire after a car was stopped in Lancaster last week and a bird of prey hood, reported stolen from a falconry centre in Settle, Yorkshire, was found inside.

Two days later, a drugs warrant was executed by the Morecambe neighbourhood policing team at an address in Bold Street. Inside officers discovered some cannabis and a Harris Hawk shut in a small spare room being used for storage.

The bird was later recovered with the help of staff from Cuerden Birds of Prey (based near Preston) and Lancashire Constabulary’s wildlife officer. Checks made on its leg rings revealed that it had been stolen from Skipton and it has now been reunited with its owner.

Inspector Dave Vickers, Morecambe police said: “Harris hawks are birds of prey and need a lot of specialist care and attention if they are in captivity. This bird was loose in a small flat in which a dog was present, so it was removed on animal welfare grounds and because we identified it as stolen.

“The rightful owner was quite concerned that the bird may not be looked after properly after it was taken and fortunately we were able to return it to them in good health and before any serious harm came to it.”

North Yorkshire Police are now investigating the theft of the Harris hawk.